Spices in an Indian kitchen may very well be referred to as the heart of Indian cuisine. Each spice has its own distinct taste and flavour. However, when combined in the preparation of a dish they come together to create a unique flavour.
We take a look at the use of spices in Indian food.
Most Popular spices
Turmeric is usually used in powder form and adds a strong yellow colour to the food. Although it is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, it is still recommended to use sparingly, as even a little of it goes a long way!
Cumin Seeds are used in both forms; whole as well as powder. It has a distinct aroma and is used quite extensively.
Black pepper is the fruit of the black pepper plant and is used whole as well as split. Rich in a number of vitamins, it is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Pepper is indigenous to India.
Mustard and Coriander Seeds are both used to garnish dishes and are extremely popular in an Indian kitchen.
Red Chilli is a very important spice and is mainly used in the dry form. When grounded into a fine powder and sautéed in oil, it adds a fiery element to a dish. The degree of hotness depends on which part of India the spice originates. The Kashmiri red chilli is the most popular one that used in Indian cuisine followed by the Andhra red chillies.
Cardamom is a sweet spice having a very distinct aroma and is used in many North Indian as well as South Indian desserts.
Saffron is one of the most expensive spices. It is produced in very few regions of the world, Kashmir in India being one of them. Not only is saffron aromatic and delicious but it also adds a beautiful rich colour to the food.
Nutmeg and Mace are mainly used in desserts. Keeping in mind how strong and potent they are, it is strongly recommended to use them both sparingly!
Cloves are dried up flower buds and are a strong and heady spice. It is mainly used in North Indian dishes such as biryani and curry. They are barely used in South Indian delicacies.
Cinnamon is actually the dried bark of a tree. It is added to oil as its getting heated, in this manner the oil gets flavoured and the food gets cooked in this fragrant oil.
Staying on a spice plantation
Many spice plantations open their doors to guests, giving you the opportunity to explore a working plantation and see and taste the fresh spices. Find out more about plantation tours.
Here are some great choices for enjoying the lush green surrounds of an Indian spice plantation.
- Pepper County in Thekkady is a modern and immaculate house with a sense of rural seclusion. The house looks out onto spectacular views across hills and plantations, consisting mainly of pepper and cardamom with many other spices and fruits, such as chillies, cashews, cinnamon and jackfruit. The hosts gladly show the guests around and inform them about the various kinds of plantations.
- Ambady Estate in Munnar is of about 75 acres in size and is right behind the smoking house that is still used to dry the cardamom from the plantations. Activities here include learning the traditional Kerala style of cooking.
- Glenora Homestays in Wayanad is located amidst a massive 90 acre plantation of coffee and betel nut with a whole variety of spices and fruit trees growing on the property. The hosts have been taking care of the plantations for over 40 years now and will take you on a plantation walk to show you and let you taste numerous fresh spices.
Related articles and links
Homestay activities: Plantation tours
Wonderful Wayanad: Guest review of Glenora Homestay
A taste of India: Typical Indian Breakfasts
Activities to try in a homestay: Indian cookery
Find out about the homestay experience and don't forget to check out our ideas on things to do in India or browse our India homestays.